I am fine.
How are you? How is Bellah? Has she called out my name yet, or is it yours she has? I miss you both.
I’m sitting or a rock now, away from the few noisy friends I have made here. Don’t get it wrong though, they too have families, they should write too you think. These ones won’t Dela, maybe Jasper can-he too has a daughter like myself- but write home? Not now, teacher-turned-soldier perhaps; that’s me, that’s what the government has elevated me to. This is our first day here at camp Timbu, we shall set base here for a few days here according to Major Borges, remember him? The one who himself dragged me head first out our smoky hut when his first batch of soldiers failed in their quest to force me out. He is the one leading this and three other platoons. I’m in the seventh, together with Jasper and a couple of others. Where I’m seated I can hear Jasper draw out a long and dry laughter, they are playing poker, I am writing to you. I miss your laughter so full of life Dela.
Ake is probably reading this to you and wondering what exactly happened to her favorite teacher. I hope you explained just as I had instructed. She is too young, and vulnerable, her mind too rare to contaminate with fear. Tell my best student that I will find my way home one day, and we shall do the sums together, the wings she needs to become the doctor that she so desperately wants. I will be back to weave her wings for her.
I left Bellah so full of flu, tell me she is fine now. Press her little cheeks for me, and tell her Papa will be back. She’s still looking at you, isn’t she? Eyes just like your own Dela, I miss my little princess.
This is the battlefield my Love, the part I hate most when writing to you, but I have to. It’s the least I can do. After all I’m the only one here writing back home.
Your faint heart will have to be strong for me Mami, it’s not easy for everyone not for me, neither is it for you of Jasper here. Their dry laughs have fizzled out into a deafening silence. That’s exactly why I will not lie to myself while I’m this far away from you. I am not fine, and neither are Jasper and my other buddies. Laughter is brief in this camp, and fake. We all have people we loved where we come from, and while others will take the little time we have on our hands to drown their sorrows in poker, I will tell my lady stories. Ake knows I’m a good story teller, ask her. Remind her to greet my other students the next time she goes back to school. I pity Father Consuelo. How now is he to run the school on his own when his best teachers are recruited in the Army? It is my prayer that Zedi comes back to help those children, they loved him too.
You’re now asking why I couldn’t run away with Zedi, aren’t you? We did many things with him, you know that. Forced the parents of Ake’s ilk to take their children to school when nobody wanted to be associated with Father Consuelo’s Mission School, helped him water the little dreams. And now look what our efforts have turned little Ake into, a literate young girl with an eye for the best life can offer.
All the same, I couldn’t run away with Zedi, the military draft was coming alright, and this time even teachers were being drafted. The last British platoon had fallen at the hands of German soldiers and more recruits were needed we were told. Ageing farmers would leave their farms, tappers of the wine would descend from their tall palm trees and hold the rifle, teachers would leave classrooms. The Germans had brought the war to our doorstep. So Zedi run away, I did not. For how long would I run? I said, to hell, I will fight for my country, my wife, my daughter. And I shall return to the three, arms stretched to welcome me back home. What about Zedi? How will he return?
Your battle is tougher than mine, trust me it is. It is you that needs to stay strong Dela, not me. Look at all those people around you my love, my own mother now completely hopeless. Remember how she pounced on that idiot Major Borges when he dragged me in the open? I swear that woman can take on an entire battalion by herself. Borges was too embarrassed to fight back at a woman, an old woman, so he hurriedly dusted himself and off he went. Greet Mama for me, tell her I’m as fine as fine can be. Give that woman hope Dela, now you see why I insist that it is you that needs to be strong.
I’m now looking at my boots Dela, they are too dusty, Timbu is dusty. You’re the one who last polished them for me while I held Bellah. I will polish them as soon as I fold the envelope and give it to the military postman. Tomorrow we begin a German onslaught, Major Borges will brief us on which platoon takes which position, which one goes first and which one guards our base. Come what may, I will fire my rifle with every single thought of you and Bellah. Forefront or backfront Dela, I must return to you.
We are only allowed to write home once in a month Dela, I will write to you again next month. I must go now. Kiss little Bellah for me, let it send a message that she’ll see me soon.
PS- Do visit the river today and under the rock from which I first kissed you, find a marble. Take it with you.
Yours In Love,